I write scripts. Right now I'm writing a feature. I'm kind of a beginner, so I wanted to ask, is it a bad idea to write two screenplays at once? Sometimes, I sit down to write and start having all these ideas for other screenplays. Would you advise against writing those ideas down? Thank you.
Writing is very individual so there's no one definitive answer to a question like this. I would definitely endorse jotting down at least quick notes on your other ideas --it's not unusual for the side project to end up better than the main one. The main thing to avoid is the habit of always starting new projects and never finishing the old ones.
How many projects you should work on in parallel is a very personal choice. It mostly depends on your habits. The benefit of more projects is that you can work on one project when you get stuck with another, the drawback is that you may be avoiding difficult stages of each, and you may be less likely to finish a project.
Some things to consider in general:
- If you have ideas that don't work for what you're doing at the moment: write them down somewhere. This achieves two things. First, you have a running list of workable ideas in case you ever need to produce something and you're lost for inspiration. Second, it gets the idea out of your head, so you can focus on the task at hand.
- For most people it's a good idea to let a written draft "incubate". That is, you put it out of sight, ideally for a few months, and read it again with fresh eyes. If you do this, it helps to have something else to work on, so you can properly forget about the old project.
- Being stuck is part of the process. It often means you have a serious problem to solve and you don't want to face it. Solve this problem honestly and creatively is what will make your story worthwhile. Don't move to the other project to avoid dealing with the big problem. If you need a break to solve the problem, it might be better to step away from the keyboard, but to keep the story in the back of your mind, than to stay at the keyboard but to work on another story.
- Pick your time to focus and finish. Feel free to pick away at each story if and when you like it, but when the time comes to finish, switch to a more disciplined and focused mode, and stick with the thing until it's time to send it off.
Finally, I think the element of screenwriting adds one important consideration: screenwriting depends entirely on writing with a particular voice. This is mostly a subconcious process, you acquire a particular way of speaking or writing over time. I you're writing one East End gangster story and one Tudor period drama, switching back and forth between those styles of speaking will probably create more stress than its worth, let alone keeping track of all the individual characters' voices within each style.
If you're going to have multiple screenplays on the go, it's probably best to write the actual dialogue for only one at a time.